Assistant Editor, Informa

October 10, 2023


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IFSEC Interviews

‘Companies within security must adopt policies that encourage diversity and inclusion’: In conversation with Sarah Cork

IFSEC Insider speaks to Sarah Cork, Chief Growth Officer at City Group Security, on why she enjoys being in the security community and provides an outlook on key trends ahead.

We also hear why she believes diversity must be further embraced for the benefits of the skills gap and wider sector as a whole. 


Sarah Cork, Chief Growth Officer, City Group Security

Sarah, who has more than 25 years of experience in security, describes the sector as a vibrant and rewarding place, offering both unique challenges and opportunities for growth, in which she finds immense satisfaction and fulfillment in her work.

Alongside her day job at City Group Security, Sarah has many voluntary roles and supports the broader community as a Board Trustee at Consortium for the Prevention of Suicide, EDI Board Chair at The City Security Council, Advisory board for TinyG, and an Ambassador for VAWAG for the City of London crime prevention Association (CoLPA).

In our interview, she discusses that with societal changes, wellbeing concerns and the cost-of-living crisis, the role of the security personnel is more crucial than ever.

Sarah also offers her thoughts on how the sector should embrace corporate social responsibility, sustainability, diversity, and inclusion as the best way to create a safer, more equitable environment for all.

IFSEC Insider (II): What do you enjoy most about working in the security sector?

Sarah Cork (SC): The allure of the security sector lies in its ever-changing nature. No two days are alike, and I have a diverse range of situations to navigate.

I find it extremely important to stay informed and adapt to societal changes, technological advancements, and evolving customer expectations. By doing so, we can provide the best possible security services while addressing the specific challenges of the modern world.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become increasingly relevant in the security sector, prompting companies to take a broader view of their impact on society. I applaud this shift towards a more ethically conscious approach, which involves not only protecting physical assets but also considering the long-term consequences of every action. As part of my role, I actively promote sustainability initiatives and strive for carbon neutrality, all while we maintain the highest security standards.

I also appreciate that a strong, supportive work environment is vital to the success and productivity of security personnel. With mental health concerns and the cost-of-living crisis affecting society, I think we should all be prioritising employee wellbeing.

By placing the physical and mental health of security personnel at the top of the agenda, we can ensure that they can perform at their best, benefiting both themselves and the clients they serve.

I understand that achieving complete equity may be an ideal yet unattainable goal. However, I believe that the security sector must actively work towards being diverse and inclusive by fostering an environment where individuals from different backgrounds and experiences are valued and respected.

For gender balance within the sector, to me, a diverse workforce enhances creativity, empathy, and problem-solving capacity, all of which are vital in a rapidly changing world.

By embracing societal changes, addressing mental health concerns, and championing corporate social responsibility, I believe I help to contribute to a safer and more inclusive environment for all.

The security sector can continue to evolve, adapt, and remain a steadfast protector of public protection and assets in an ever-changing world.

II: Have you seen any major change in demand for security services? If so, why do you think that is?

SC: The security services sector has witnessed significant changes in demand, particularly after emerging from the challenging times of the pandemic. Throughout the crisis, security professionals functioned as shining stars, playing a crucial role in property and asset management, enforcing safety protocols, and keeping the country afloat.

As the world recovers, the industry is experiencing a surge in tender invitations with diverse requirements that leverage technology, canine capabilities, patrols, security professionals, physical security, and remote monitoring.

Additionally, the forthcoming terrorism bill prompts a renewed focus on risk assessment. As senior leaders in security navigate these interesting times, collaboration and a shared vision are key to further professionalising the industry.

Collectively, companies are collaborating like never before, and the City Security Council’s influence has fostered a “change the face of security” campaign to highlight the industry’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity, supported by the Security Industry Authority.

Find out more about the City Security Council initiative, helping to protect the City of London, here: Barriers and benefits to public-private sector collaboration – the City Security Council

Take a look at the ‘Change the Face of Security’ campaign from the CSC by watching videos posted to its LinkedIn page, here >>

Post-pandemic, there has been a noticeable shift in customer expectations and requirements for security services. Clients are increasingly looking for solutions that incorporate advanced technologies to ensure robust security measures. This includes implementing high-tech surveillance systems, access control solutions, and remote monitoring capabilities to adapt to evolving threats effectively.

Furthermore, the expertise of security personnel is always in demand, specifically in areas such as risk assessment, threat analysis, and emergency response planning, to safeguard against potential security breaches.

Sarah says there is a growing demand for canine and static patrol units from clients in the security sector

One noteworthy change in demand is the increased reliance on canine units and static patrols. The presence of trained canine units has proven to be an effective deterrent against criminal activities, providing an added layer of security.

Similarly, static patrols offer initiative-taking on-site monitoring, reinforcing the safety of premises and deterring any potential threats. These specialised security services have gained recognition and are now sought after by clients who priorities comprehensive security visibility.

As security professionals plan and adapt to the ever-changing landscape, risk assessment becomes paramount. The forthcoming terrorism bill introduces new challenges and necessitates a diligent evaluation of potential threats. Heightened attention to risk assessment will enable security providers to devise effective preventive strategies, ensuring the safety and security of both public and private spaces.

II: A challenging landscape ahead, then. How can security leaders evolve to work with or overcome these trends? 

SC: To elevate the security industry even further, senior leaders are focusing on professionalisation and collaboration. Understanding the importance of collective efforts, these leaders are coming together to share their visions, values, and expertise.

Collaborative initiatives are paving the way for elevated standards, innovation, and a unified approach to security. The City Security Council’s influence has been instrumental in fostering this spirit of collaboration by bringing companies together and encouraging the sharing of best practices and knowledge through operations, intelligence, and EDI.

A commendable aspect of the security sector’s evolution is the perception campaign initiated by 39 companies. Recognising the need to change public perceptions, these organisations are highlighting the commitment to diversity and inclusivity prevalent within the industry.

By amplifying the voices and stories of security professionals from various backgrounds, the campaign highlights the sector’s inclusivity and the vital role it plays in society.

The support received from the Security Industry Authority further bolsters this initiative and encourages others to follow suit. It highlights diversity and inclusivity within the sector, demonstrating its crucial role in safeguarding communities

As clients seek advanced technological solutions, canine units, and risk mitigation, static patrols, the security sector is stepping up to meet these changing needs. The forthcoming terrorism bill emphasises the importance of rigorous risk assessment, prompting security providers to sharpen their preventive strategies.

Through collaboration and the professionalisation of their practices, senior leaders are shaping the future of security services. These exciting times offer a wealth of opportunities for growth, innovation, and collective advancement.

II: What is one change you would like to see from a security process or systems point of view?

SC: The security sector plays a vital role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and communities. However, to fully realise its potential, it must embrace diversity and inclusion, particularly with regards to equity.

Research has consistently shown that businesses with equal gender representation not only drive increased revenue but also foster a range of benefits, including staff retention, innovation, creativity, and cultural change.

Articles like this help to highlight the changes needed to promote a stronger female presence at middle management and board level within the security sector.


There is a need to raise awareness and challenge the prevailing stereotypes and biases surrounding the security sector. By highlighting the opportunities, achievements, and success stories of women working in security, we can inspire more women to pursue careers in this field.

Additionally, creating an inclusive and supportive workplace culture that embraces diversity will encourage talented women to join and stay within the security industry.

II: And what can organisations do to attract female talent and create a more inclusive culture? 

SC: To attract and retain female talent, it is crucial to continue to focus on the gender pay gap at managerial level within the security sector and in business. Conducting regular salary audits, ensuring equal pay for equal work, and providing transparent pay scales will contribute to fair compensation.

Additionally, offering equal opportunities for career progression and development can help bridge the gender gap and promote a more balanced workforce.

Historically, the security sector has operated on rigid shift patterns, often requiring long and unsociable hours. This can be a deterrent for women with caring responsibilities or those seeking a better work-life balance. Introducing more flexible shift patterns, such as part-time options or job sharing, can encourage more women to consider careers in security and help retain female talent.

Implementing mentorship and sponsorship programmes can play a pivotal role in supporting women’s career growth and advancement. By pairing aspiring female professionals with seasoned industry leaders, opportunities for learning, development, networking, and guidance can be maximised.

These programmes can also help women navigate the challenges and biases they may face in a male-dominated industry.

Companies within the security sector must adopt policies that encourage diversity and inclusion. This includes implementing family-friendly policies such as parental leave, offering childcare assistance, and creating a safe and inclusive working environment free from discrimination and harassment. Moreover, actively promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives both internally and externally can help attract a more diverse pool of talent.

A more equitable and diverse security sector, with a stronger female presence at middle management and board level, is not only beneficial for businesses but also contributes to a safer community.

By addressing gender pay gaps, promoting flexible working conditions, fostering mentorship programmes, and implementing supportive policies, the security sector can become a more inclusive and attractive field for women.

“Implementing mentorship and sponsorship programmes can play a pivotal role in supporting women’s career growth and advancement. By pairing aspiring female professionals with seasoned industry leaders, opportunities for learning, development, networking, and guidance can be maximised.”

Embracing diversity and inclusion in the security sector will not only lead to greater profitability but also a stronger workforce, improved innovation, and a fairer society.

II: Why is education and awareness of security roles important?

SC: Education and awareness are significant in advancing the security sector, enabling the industry to be staffed by skilled and qualified professionals who prioritise safety and security.

While recent developments, such as apprenticeships for security professionals, have been welcomed, there remains a need for increased funding and government support to professionalise the industry further. Education and awareness are crucial for the security sector and the benefits of promoting security as a viable career option for schools, colleges, and universities.

Initiatives enhance the professionalism of the security sector by equipping professionals with the necessary knowledge, skills, and qualifications. Training programmes, certifications, and continuous professional development opportunities ensure that security personnel are well-prepared to manage various challenges in today’s evolving security landscape.  

Furthermore, educating the general public about security-related best practices, such as personal safety measures and cybersecurity awareness, promotes a more secure and resilient society.

By professionalising the industry, it builds public trust and confidence, resulting in improved safety standards and more robust security infrastructure.

Introducing apprenticeships for security professionals, including control room and mobile response roles, is a positive step towards addressing skill gaps and attracting new talent. The apprenticeship levy, which funds these programmes, has provided supported training. However, businesses often need to contribute additional funding to enable effective learning.

Enhanced government financial support would further incentivise firms to invest in apprenticeships, ensuring a pipeline of competent security professionals and fostering long-term career opportunities.

To professionalise the industry further, it is essential to raise awareness among students at an early stage. Introducing security education in schools, vocational colleges, and universities will inform and expose young individuals to the wide range of career paths available within the security sector.

This can be done through career talks, workshops, internships, and partnerships between educational institutions and industry professionals. By showcasing security as a viable and rewarding career option, more students may be inclined to pursue education and training in this field.

The security industry faces a skills gap that needs to be addressed urgently. Encouraging aspiring professionals to undergo security-related education and training programmes can help close this gap.

By focusing on developing comprehensive curricula and syllabi, collaborating with industry experts, and incorporating practical experiences, educational institutions can produce job-ready graduates with the necessary skills to excel in the security sector.

By investing in education and awareness, we can bolster the security sector, protect communities, and create a more robust and professional industry whilst supporting police and private partnerships.

ED&I in fire and security: Further reading


Listen to the IFSEC Insider podcast!

Each month, the IFSEC Insider (formerly IFSEC Global) Security in Focus podcast brings you conversations with leading figures in the physical security industry. Covering everything from risk management principles and building a security culture, to the key trends ahead in tech and initiatives on diversity and inclusivity, the podcast keeps security professionals up to date with the latest hot topics in the sector.

Available online, and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, tune in for an easy way to remain up to date on the issues affecting your role.


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